[OPE-L:7308] Re: Re: 'De omnibus dubitandum'

From: dashyaf@easynet.co.uk
Date: Sun Jun 02 2002 - 16:31:00 EDT


Again you seem to have missed the point and fallen into some sort of 
idealist explanation of 'Stalinism' - even if you have tried to hedge your 
bets. Anti-authoritarian trends and tendencies of all kinds existed in and 
around the Bolshevik party - they always are present in a revolutionary 
situation.  Their perspective was simply unable to dominate  because of the 
'material reality' - a revolutionary country increasingly isolated and 
under assault from imperialism and social democracy. What happened 
within  Bolshevik Party requires a materialist explanation not an idealist 
or moralistic one.

For myself I find the attempt to develop the 'orthodox' standpoint faces 
dogmatic and uncritical rejection from our 'modern' or should one say 
'post-modern' critics of Marx. I put this down to the social conditions in 
the imperialist countries, but believe they will change and real 
possibilities for developing the 'orthodox' perspective are returning.

There are standards to judge the Marxist perspective. Doubt everything is 
not one of them.

In solidarity

David Yaffe

At 09:40 02/06/02 -0400, you wrote:
>Preface A:  re [7302], you're welcome, Rakesh.
>Preface B:  after David Y's plea of "enough of this" in [7299],
>I was prepared to let David have the last word in this thread and
>let this topic drop.   Since Howard has entered the fray and since
>I think there are important issues to be addressed, I will -- pace
>David -- have more to say now.
>Re Howard's [7306]:
>[ *Digression* -- if uninterested in sailing, scroll down:
> > Since you are off to sea, suppose a boat at sea and no one on
>board knows anything about navigation.  What do you suppose
>the contribution will be of "doubt everything" to getting you to
>land? <
>An attitude of "doubt everything" is *exactly* what is needed under
>the conditions you suppose.  Countless boats and lives over the
>years have been lost following a navigational error in which the
>vessels were steered inadvertently -- often under conditions of
>limited visibility -- towards a point that the navigator assumed in
>the presence of incomplete information to be the destination or
>refuge  but which turned out to be another location.  The rule
>under these circumstances is never to commit yourself totally
>and irreversibly until you *know* where you are (just like you, as
>a driver of a car, should *never* change lanes until you *know*
>that there isn't a car in the other lane.)   More broadly,
>"doubt everything" is an excellent perspective for all phases of
>boathandling and outfitting.  At sea one must act as if all 4 of
>Murphy's Laws are valid: "contingency seamanship' is required.
>This is a life-and-death question for sailors. - End digression.]
>Howard continued:
> > <snip, JL>  David is right.  The question is whether the purpose of
>inquiry is to change the world.  We don't act on the basis of doubt.
>Beliefs shape action.  Doubt stimulates inquiry.  We doubt when
>something in or relative to the beliefs we work with surprises us.
>We confront the unexpected in practice.  This generates doubt and
>we inquire to resolve doubt.  But to start out by doubt! ing everything
>is playing with inquiry.  It is the luxury of academics (always doubt the
>consequence of class position!).  It is doubt abstracted from practice.
>In other words, we doubt because we have a positive reason for it,
>not because we follow a formal maxim.  Doubt  must be real, living
>doubt, not just a formal proposition with a question mark at the end.
>It goes without saying also that being alert to surprise in a far reaching
>way is critical to success in science and political action.<
>The point that I was trying to make previously is that anti-authoritarianism
>was key to Marx's perspective and *should be* key to our own.  This is
>not, as you seem to believe, a judgment which is made in abstraction
>from practice and history.  Quite the opposite.  An understanding of the
>history of Marxism tells us it is a vitally important revolutionary stance.
>*Accepting authority* has been common practice for many movements that
>considered themselves Marxist and *arguing from authority* has probably
>been the primary form in which debates among Marxists have taken place
>since Marx.   Whether the authority figure was Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao,
>or Gonzolo the acceptance of authority has discouraged independent
>thinking and has been a tool that has been used by authoritarian and
>beaureacratic elites  in organizations and institutions.  Indeed, one could
>argue that, while authoritarianism may not have been the cause of
>Stalinism, it  formed a necessary ideological  and social-conditional 
>which was  required to keep the ranks and masses in line.  In some cases,
>the  'authority figure'  (e.g. Marx, Lenin) had to die first before the 
>could  re-cast that person's life  in those terms. Thus, following Lenin's 
>death  --
>against Lenin's  explicit requests --  statues were commissioned across the
>USSR and locations were named after him.  And, adding insult to injury,
>invoking his name  horrible atrocities were committed by political opponents.
>Had a culture of anti-authoritarianism  been prevalent within these 
>and institutions, it would have  been much harder for beaureacratization 
>to occur.
>Viewed from this  perspective, the failure of many "Marxists" to embrace
>anti-authoritarianism has been a contributing factor to the deaths of 
>of people in the XXth  Century.   It has also been a contributing factor 
>to the
>cult-like status of many smaller Marxist organizations. Yes, we have been 
>many, far too many, causes for "real, living doubt".
>A good case could be made for us completely abandoning the term "Marxist".
>After all, even Marx didn't consider himself to be a Marxist.  Justin 
>in fact, recently claimed that "Marxism" was an invention of Bakunin who
>used the term in a derogatory way (Rubel however suggests that it begins
>with Engels).   At the time, M&E and other 'scientific socialists' refused to
>accept that title -- in part, for anti-authoritarian reasons (i.e.  they 
>think that their perspective should be identified by the name of any one
>individual).  Interestingly, Engels said (according to Schwartz) that M and
>himself  used the expressions "scientific socialism" and "critical socialism"
>As critical socialists, we should reject all authority figures: 'respect 
>for authority'
>is a profoundly reactionary perspective.  We should have NO heroes.  We
>should build NO statues.  We should idolize NO one.  We should be the
>"followers" of NO one.
>In [7299] David wrote that he found my "comment" from [72l9l] to be 
>Since David brought the Jesuits into the conversation, let us discuss the
>practice of the Jesuits.  The allegedly "critical" standpoint of the 
>Jesuits can
>only be comprehended within the context of their *faith*.  That is,  their 
>leads them to accept all in "The Bible" as the Word of God.  The question,
>therefore, from a Jesuitical perspective is not whether the Word of God is
>correct but how to *interpret* the meaning of the Word of God. In this sense,
>Jesuitical  and Talmudic debates are very similar.  They are hermeneutic
>debates only.   The Jesuits, let us also recall,  are a part  of the Roman
>Catholic hierarchy and are *profoundly*  authoritarian (and have a history of
>blood-letting in the name of faith, e.g. in the Spanish Inquisition.)  In 
>this sense,
>and in all other senses, I have been putting  forward an ANTI-Jesuitical
>perspective:  we should "follow" no one; we should have "faith" in nothing;
>we should look to the future with our eyes fully open; we should apologize for
>no one (except, where applicable, ourselves);  we should be critical to 
>all --
>*especially* those  like Marx whose  perspective we to a great extent 
>identify with.
>In solidarity, Jerry

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